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Two Provincial Tetradrachms of Caracalla


Al Kowsky
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One area of special interest for me are the Roman provincial tetradrachms, with a focus on the issues of the Severan dynasty. I won the two coins pictured below late last year from CNG E-Auction 530. The first coin is common but far less common than the right facing portrait type. Both photos are courtesy of CNG.

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SELEUCIS & PIERIA, Antioch Mint. Caracalla, AD 198-217 (struck c. AD 215-217). Billon Tetradrachm: 15.58 gm, 27.5 mm, 6 h. Obverse: Laureate, draped, & cuirassed bust of Caracalla, facing left, as seen from behind. Reverse: Eagle standing with spread wings with wreath in it's beak, standing on leg & thigh of a sacrificial animal. 4 Eparches type. McAlee 682; Prieur 228. 

The Greek letters delta on the left side of the eagle's head & the sigma on the right side indicate the 4 Eparches, or the four sub-regions of the Roman province of Syria. The four sub-regions were: Syria, with it's capital at Antioch; Phoenicia, with it's capital at Tyre; Commagene, with it's capital at Somosata; & Cole-Syria, with it's capital at Damascus. The two Greek letters, delta & sigma, imply that these coins would have the same value & could circulate anywhere in the province of Syria.

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ROMAN JUDAEA, Caesarea Maritima. Caracalla, AD 198-217 (struck AD 215-217). Billon Tetradrachm: 15.24 gm, 27.65 mm, 1 h. Obverse: Laureate head of Caracalla facing right. Reverse: Eagle standing with spread wings holding a wreath in it's beak, standing on a flaming torch entwined by a serpent, bull's head between legs. Prieur 1663A obv. / 1665 rev. variant. Rare.

The unusual mintmark of a flaming torch entwined by a serpent or snake harkens back to an old purification myth practiced by members of the Eleusinian cult. Their Mother-goddess was symbolized by a snake & cult members were purified by fire. The bull's head still remains a mystery.

Website members are welcome to post their tetradrachms of Caracalla ☺️.

 

 

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A couple of nice examples. I don't (yet) have any tetradrachms of Caracalla. Those are of superb weight and good metal. I am wondering about the value of such coins compared with the denarius, must be a multiple of 3 or 4 even though ostensibly the tetradrachms were a bit more debased than the latter. 

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I have one of these but never particularly liked their appearance, which is usually grainy with at least light porosity. A glowering facial visage on the coin does not help either. This one is from Sidon, I think, with some kind of "Cart of Astarte"  and is said to be a scarce variety.

thumbnail_IMG_2426Car obv.jpg

Car tet rev.jpg

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Tetradrachms in general, but especially during the Severan period, are in my opinion among the finest issues of coins that can be collected. The only disadvantage is the often monotonous reverse with the eagle, which exists in variations - but 90% of the time it is always an eagle and only rarely something else. In my view, this is compensated for by the most beautiful portraits and variations on the obverse. Rarely do you get such beautiful, impressive and atmospheric portraits on a silver coin as on these tetradrachms.

 

 

image.jpeg.763428174530d7dc59cb97d11d846ce8.jpeg

Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Caracalla
Tetradrachm of the Roman Imperial Period 212/213 AD; Material: Silver; Diameter: 28mm; Weight: 14.30g; Mint: Laodicea ad Mare, Syria Phoenice; Reference: Prieur 1173a, Rare; Obverse: Draped bust of Caracalla with laurel wreath to the right. Inscription: ΑΥΤ · ΚΑΙ · ΑΝΤΩΝЄΙΝΟC · CЄ for Autokrator Kaisar Antoneinos Sebastos (Imperator Caesar Antoninus Augustus); Reverse: Eagle standing facing, head and tail left, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak. Star between legs. Inscription: ΔΗΜΑΡX · ЄΞ · ΥΠΑΤΟC · ΤΟ · Γ for Demarchos Exousias Upatos to Gamma (Tribunicians authority, Consul for the third time).
 
 
 
image.png.60e1f827595c185770de1df75cc3c766.png
Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Caracalla
Tetradrachm of the Roman Imperial Period 215/217 AD; Material: Silver; Diameter: 27mm; Weight: 12.29g; Mint: Aradus, Syria; Reference: Prieur 1261; Provenance: Ex Michel Prieur Collection, Ex M&M Numismatics 1997, Ex Triton XXII; Obverse: Laureate and cuirassed bust left, wearing aegis; trabea over shoulder. The Inscription reads: ΑΥ Κ Μ Α ΑΝΤΩΝΙΝΟC for Autokrator Kaisaros Marcos Aurelios Antoninos (Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus); Reverse: Eagle standing facing, head and tail left, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; crescent between legs. The Inscription reads: ΔΗΜΑΡΧ ΕΞ ΥΠΑΤΟC Τ Δ for Demarchos exousia Hypatos to Delta (Invested with the Tribunician Power, Consul of the 4th time).
 
 
 
 
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2 hours ago, Ancient Coin Hunter said:

A couple of nice examples. I don't (yet) have any tetradrachms of Caracalla. Those are of superb weight and good metal. I am wondering about the value of such coins compared with the denarius, must be a multiple of 3 or 4 even though ostensibly the tetradrachms were a bit more debased than the latter. 

A.C.H. Thanks for your comments 😊. The drachm was actually worth slightly less than a denarius when these coins were struck. The sole reign of Caracalla witnessed the largest debasement of Antioch tetradrachms, from 61% to 36% silver, & they can no longer be called silver; at this point they are billon. If the coins are in mint state they may actually look like silver, but close examination of most of these coins will reveal light porosity that isn't seen on the older issues. For comparison see the two coins pictured below. The first coin is the same age as my first coin posted, it has obvious porosity. The second coin is an early silver issue of Caracalla, although it's deeply toned it isn't porous.

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1393687886_McAlee667AlKowskyCollection.jpg.778c6561bb39576cd37a3cc9d84252d1.jpg

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2 hours ago, kevikens said:

I have one of these but never particularly liked their appearance, which is usually grainy with at least light porosity. A glowering facial visage on the coin does not help either. This one is from Sidon, I think, with some kind of "Cart of Astarte"  and is said to be a scarce variety.

thumbnail_IMG_2426Car obv.jpg

Car tet rev.jpg

kevikens, Your coin has a crudely engraved portrait that is typical for the Sidon mint as it is for many other mints that struck these coins for Caracalla. What makes your coin special is the lustrous reverse with the finely engraved eagle & meticulous detail on the Cart of Astarte mintmark 🤩.

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2 hours ago, Prieure de Sion said:

Tetradrachms in general, but especially during the Severan period, are in my opinion among the finest issues of coins that can be collected. The only disadvantage is the often monotonous reverse with the eagle, which exists in variations - but 90% of the time it is always an eagle and only rarely something else. In my view, this is compensated for by the most beautiful portraits and variations on the obverse. Rarely do you get such beautiful, impressive and atmospheric portraits on a silver coin as on these tetradrachms.

 

 

image.jpeg.763428174530d7dc59cb97d11d846ce8.jpeg

Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Caracalla
Tetradrachm of the Roman Imperial Period 212/213 AD; Material: Silver; Diameter: 28mm; Weight: 14.30g; Mint: Laodicea ad Mare, Syria Phoenice; Reference: Prieur 1173a, Rare; Obverse: Draped bust of Caracalla with laurel wreath to the right. Inscription: ΑΥΤ · ΚΑΙ · ΑΝΤΩΝЄΙΝΟC · CЄ for Autokrator Kaisar Antoneinos Sebastos (Imperator Caesar Antoninus Augustus); Reverse: Eagle standing facing, head and tail left, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak. Star between legs. Inscription: ΔΗΜΑΡX · ЄΞ · ΥΠΑΤΟC · ΤΟ · Γ for Demarchos Exousias Upatos to Gamma (Tribunicians authority, Consul for the third time).
 
 
 
image.png.60e1f827595c185770de1df75cc3c766.png
Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Caracalla
Tetradrachm of the Roman Imperial Period 215/217 AD; Material: Silver; Diameter: 27mm; Weight: 12.29g; Mint: Aradus, Syria; Reference: Prieur 1261; Provenance: Ex Michel Prieur Collection, Ex M&M Numismatics 1997, Ex Triton XXII; Obverse: Laureate and cuirassed bust left, wearing aegis; trabea over shoulder. The Inscription reads: ΑΥ Κ Μ Α ΑΝΤΩΝΙΝΟC for Autokrator Kaisaros Marcos Aurelios Antoninos (Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Antoninus); Reverse: Eagle standing facing, head and tail left, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; crescent between legs. The Inscription reads: ΔΗΜΑΡΧ ΕΞ ΥΠΑΤΟC Τ Δ for Demarchos exousia Hypatos to Delta (Invested with the Tribunician Power, Consul of the 4th time).
 
 
 
 

P. de Sion. You posted two exceptional tetradrachms 😃! I love the portrait on your Aradus rarity 😍. The lettering on that coin is extremely crude but the portrait is finely engraved & depicts a very brutal man, & that fits his personality perfectly 😏. The eagle is finely engraved too.

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I agree with P. de Sion, many of the tetradrachms from the Severan Dynasty are exceptionally well engraved with portraits that exceed in beauty anything done at the Rome mint ☺️, & reverse of those coins is monotonous except for the mintmarks. Many of these tetradrachms are grotesquely ugly too 😝. Pictured below are two coins that picture the extremes.

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1421524208_NGC6054874-013AWKCollection.jpg.16462fda59891a4ce9bd293ff1691761.jpg

 

 

Edited by Al Kowsky
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Roman Mesopotamia, Edessa. Caracalla. AD 198-217. BI Tetradrachm (26mm, 13.77g, 11h). Struck AD 215-217. Obv: AΥT•K•M•AY•ANTΩNЄINOC CЄB; Radiate and cuirassed bust right, viewed from behind. Rev: ΔΗΜΑΡΧ EΞ ΥΠΑΤΟC ΤΟ Δ; Eagle standing facing, head right, with wings displayed, holding wreath in beak; shrine with pediment between legs. Ref: Prieur 850 (same obv. die as illustration); Bellinger 139 (same obv. die as illustration). Light roughness. Good Very Fine. Ex CNG e529 (14 Dec 2022), Lot 555. 

image.jpeg.824191d24cad782f253894c29ee32241.jpeg

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10 hours ago, Edessa said:

Roman Mesopotamia, Edessa. Caracalla. AD 198-217. BI Tetradrachm (26mm, 13.77g, 11h). Struck AD 215-217. Obv: AΥT•K•M•AY•ANTΩNЄINOC CЄB; Radiate and cuirassed bust right, viewed from behind. Rev: ΔΗΜΑΡΧ EΞ ΥΠΑΤΟC ΤΟ Δ; Eagle standing facing, head right, with wings displayed, holding wreath in beak; shrine with pediment between legs. Ref: Prieur 850 (same obv. die as illustration); Bellinger 139 (same obv. die as illustration). Light roughness. Good Very Fine. Ex CNG e529 (14 Dec 2022), Lot 555. 

image.jpeg.824191d24cad782f253894c29ee32241.jpeg

Edessa, Great score on this "namesake" coin 😄! Wonderful portrait with a mean scowl 😟& unusual to see him with a radiate crown. The back view with the detailed cuirass is well done too 😉. Thanks for posting. Do you have other coins from the Edessa mint 🤔?

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Thanks Al!  The scowling radiate bust of Caracalla was what drew me to that coin as his expression looks so much like some of his Rome Mint Antoniniani.

As for other issues from Edessa, not many. The only other one I have a  pic of at the moment is a Macrinus. 

Mesopotamia, Edessa. Macrinus. AD 217-218. AR Tetradrachm (24mm, 12.02g, 6h). Obv: Laureate, draped, and cuirassed bust right. Rev: Eagle standing facing, head and tail right, with wings spread, holding wreath in beak; between legs, shrine with pediment. Ref: Prieur 863 (same obverse die as illustration). Very Fine, lightly toned, minor porosity. Extremely rare, only two noted by Prieur, and one in CoinArchives. Ex CNG e296 (13 Feb 2013), Lot 202. Ex Goldberg Pre-Long Beach (30 Jun 2022), Lot 2382.

image.jpeg.eefb599c0952d9a8825eee4bc4d7ec46.jpeg

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